WITH the Russian President having slipped loose the dogs of war, making him guilty of the crime of aggression under Article 8(2) of the International Criminal Court Statute, and while Russian soldiers are killing Ukrainians, it may seem not the time to draw attention to the root cause of the situation – Russian insecurity and its mishandling by the West following the collapse of the USSR.
But whatever the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine, and the efforts by sanctions to squeeze Russia into a withdrawal, that issue will have to be faced square on if there is to be future stability in all of Europe. It is a fact that Mikhail Gorbachev was given a solemn promise that Nato would not advance “one inch” eastwards, which it has done despite repeated Russian expressions of concern.
Nato expansion as a contributory cause of the present situation is not my view alone. Distinguished members of the United States foreign policy establishment such as Robert D Kaplan: “Insecurity is the quintessential of the Russian national emotion,” and Thomas Graham, former member of the US National Security Council: “The West acts as if it had a Vladimir Putin problem. In fact it has a Russian problem” are but a number of US specialists who have expressed concern about the West ignoring the Russian complaints.
Bad statecraft by western leaders does not excuse the monumental statecraft error of judgment by Vladimir Putin in launching an invasion of Ukraine on the basis of absurd claims that 1), it is not really a state, and 2), it is a Nazi regime, which would be the first to elect a Jewish President. Perhaps despite what Mr Graham said in the recent past, we have a double problem: Russia and separately Mr Putin who, in that bizarre security council meeting seemed, shall we say, rather off balance.
The personality of its president may be a contemporary factor, but for the Russian people and their state, it is their perception of Nato as a threat to their security that is the substantial issue that will have to be tackled, with their interests paramount.
Jim Sillars, Edinburgh.
A SELECTIVE USE OF HISTORY
SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone complained at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday about Alex Salmond’s show (now suspended) on Russia Today. In reply the Prime Minister said Mr Stone’s “question” would “have been more powerful if it had come from the leader of the Scottish National Party”.
What short memories we all have, or are encouraged to have by selective use of history. In January 2014 David Leask reported that “Great Britain is extremely interested in the support of Russia, as holder of the G8 presidency, in two vital areas in 2014: the Afghan pull-out and the Scottish independence referendum”.
Of course, not content with seeking the support of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron was also seeking the support of Spanish Premier Mariana Rajoy, who brutally intervened in Catalonia when they dared to hold a referendum on their future. Who can forget the pictures of the Spanish Civil Guard dragging about old ladies and private citizens, sometimes elderly, being beaten for daring to vote?
It is said means can sometimes be justified by the ends they will secure. However, when it appears just fine for the Prime Minister of our country to seek the support of a brutal autocrat as well as the leader of a party which can trace its origins back to Franco’s last Cabinet, are there not serious issues of opportunism? Mr Cameron did after all have an option – don’t do it.
But the current situation also reeks of hypocrisy, most especially because of the London Laundromat, as the Government’s “golden visa” scheme has created a haven for dirty Russian money. The Labour Party has estimated Conservative Party donors who had made money from Russia or Russians had contributed £1.93 million since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.
Despite all of this, the First Minister is traduced, because her predecessor, now no longer a member of her party, was doing nothing unlawful by having a programme on Russia Today. She has made clear from before the first Alex Salmond Show aired that she disapproved, but despite not consorting with autocrats, successors of fascism and Russian oligarchs, and not taking their money, the narrative at Westminster is all about her and Alex Salmond. I might conclude by asking if Westminster has something to hide, but it is plain that they certainly do have something to hide.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.
PUTIN MUST BE ISOLATED
IT is clear that sanctions against Russia are having no impact on Russia’s actions and that western countries must unite to isolate Russia completely. Failure to do so will only encourage Vladimir Putin to expand military activity into other Eastern European countries, safe in the knowledge that the West will avoid military action at all costs, as seen by the empty rhetoric of Nato.
Sadly, though not unexpectedly, China and – judging by the warm handshake between Mr Putin and Imran Khan – potentially Pakistan, are prepared to support Mr Putin in mitigating the impact of western sanctions.
It must be made clear to these countries that if they do assist him that they too will be sanctioned. The Prime Minister and other western leaders must now take all possible steps to isolate Russia and its allies or the future will be dangerous for not just Europe, but the world.
Bill Eadie, Giffnock.
CRACKING DOWN ON DIRTY MONEY
I SHOULD like to suggest a sanction against Russia which, as far as I am aware, has not yet been suggested. It has the added advantage of catching other “dirty money”.
My suggestion is that the UK and Scottish governments put an immediate freeze on all property transactions where an individual or individuals cannot be identified. This would make it impossible for people to hide their identities behind shell companies – which has of course been a long-running matter of concern, not just with the Russians.
People with nothing to hide should be able to provide the relevant documentation which would enable the purchase or sale of a property to proceed.
Stewart Noble, Helensburgh.
WRONG TO HALT GLASGOW’S TWINNING
I NOTE that Glasgow City Council has decided to stop the twinning arrangement with Rostov-on-Don, in an attempt to show solidarity with Ukraine (“Glasgow suspends twinning agreement with Rostov-on-Don after the Russian attack”, The Herald, February 25). I think there are a number of ways to support Ukraine, both symbolically, and practically, especially in donating to relevant organisations.
However, I thought much of the point of twinning (as after the Second World War), was to differentiate between citizens and governments, and to build relationships and understanding between ordinary people. I rather doubt that the people of Rostov-on-Don had anything to do with the decision made by the megalomaniac Vladimir Putin, or his corrupt elite. I remember a number of years ago encountering a group of youngsters visiting Glasgow from Rostov – they were pale and poorly dressed, definitely not amongst those leading the high life of the oligarchs welcomed into London and the UK. Maybe some of them are on the streets tonight, like people in Moscow and St Petersburg, bravely protesting about their government’s actions.
I think it would be great for Glasgow to organise a fund-raiser for a suitable Ukrainian organisation, or a large-scale solidarity event, but I fear this gesture, though well-intentioned, is misplaced.
Joan Hoggan, Blanefield.
THE MYTH OF HITLER’S ELECTION
I WAS disappointed to see Iain Macwhirter (“We must hit Russia hard and put Putin back in his box”, The Herald, February 23) perpetuate the myth that Adolf Hitler was freely elected as leader of Germany. He writes: “The German dictator, who was of course initially elected…”. This claim is incorrect .
The fact was that Hitler was appointed as Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg in January 1933 following on from the elections of November 1932 in which the Nazi party secured around 34 per cent of the popular vote.
After the Reichstag fire of February 1933 Hitler had the Enabling Act approved which granted him emergency powers. He then used those powers to effectively ban all political parties apart from the Nazis.
Free, open and democratic elections could no longer take place in Germany.
Graham Sutherland, Edinburgh
TIME TO LEARN FROM BODO
IN April 1967 I was in Bodo (also Tromso and Harsted) on a Royal Navy ship. It was a small coastal town north of the Arctic circle, with friendly people but little else to stick in the memory (I was young). A month later, Glasgow Celtic won the European cup, and Rangers almost won the Cup Winners Cup, both with Scottish players and management. Yesterday (February 24) Celtic were well beaten by a team from Bodo, though Rangers surprised against a good German team.
Fifty years on, and neither Scottish team is very “Scottish”, indeed Scottish football across the board has declined markedly, replete as it is with “freebies” and dross from other leagues. There appears to be little groundwork or coaching from a young age in Scotland. If Bodo/Glimt can field a good team composed of mostly Norwegian players, why can’t Celtic or Rangers, whose resources are vastly greater, field a team of Scots (perhaps even managed by a Scot)?
I’m sure Steve Clarke and millions of Scotland supporters would be keen to know the answer as well.
GR Weir, Ochiltree.
THE interesting and entertaining musings of Thelma Edwards are amongst the USPs of your Letters Pages. A recent circular from an organisation of which I am a member used this acronym, leaving me and fellow members of my vintage perplexed.
I excuse Mrs Edwards from blame in using it, as her letter of February 25 quotes from that of Ian W Thomson of the previous day. Mrs Edwards’ letters are unique, and their content is their selling point.
Let’s reduce the use of acronyms.
David Miller, Milngavie.
SEVERAL readers have recently (and rightly) deplored the poor standards of behaviour common in cinema audiences these days.
But over the decades, some ad hoc remarks have often been welcome:
For example, at The Ten Commandments (in the Radio, Kilbirnie), a small voice loudly asks: “Whit dis thou shalt not commit adultery mean, Mammy?” “It’s jist the same as telling a lie, hen”; or at E.T. the Extra- Terrestrial (Odeon, Renfield Street, Glasgow), another small voice asks: “Is ET deid Mammy?” “Aye, noo wheesht.” “Waaaah, ET’s deid”; and finally at Titanic, two teenage lassies at a screening on a wet Saturday afternoon (in the Clydebank Odeon): “D’ye think this boat is goanny sink, Mary?” “Naw, canny see it!”
John F Crawford, Lytham.
Read more: We must get real and reach a compromise with Russia